by Smith Holbrook
I'm Smith Holbrook, and I'm honored to be part of your faithful Flatwoods 1st Baptist Prophets team of reporters. I'm proud to remind you again that the Northeastern Kentucky Church League Basketball Association has at long last received the national recognition it rightly deserves: the NKCLBA President was at seasons start approached by the NBA's new league commisioner, Adam Silver, and after a lengthy and amicable conversation, a deal to merge the two most talented leagues in the country was finally agreed upon. The deal was tentatively confirmed by major news networks and social media sites merely two days after Silver was sworn in as league commisioner, and it was finalized February 6 of this year. Unlike his predecessor, David Stern, Silver doesn't want the NBA scouts to continue swooping in and offering the occasional under-the-radar Kentucky Church League player a multi-million dollar contract he can't refuse. But Stern's reign of terror and oppresion is over now, and what's right is right: Silver sees how extremely skilled and humble all of these church league players are, and that every full Northeastern Kentucky team roster deserves the right to earn his keep on a slightly bigger stage. Let's move onto some recent quotes, reactions, and developments in this wild world of basketball.
In the new commisioner's own words, during a live televised press conference aired on ESPN February 7: "Each one of these players, even at the smallest, remotest churches in the Northeastern Kentucky Church League, have earned the right to play with and against the biggest names in our sport, in the biggest arenas, with salaries and endorsements equal to -- and maybe even eventually surpassing -- many of these well established pro players; I think our nation is in for a big surprise on April 8th, when on TNT Sports, we will see the Wurtland 1st Methodist Prophets clash with the Houston Rockets in what's sure to be one for the record books."
Silver continued, in his live and controversially brash televised interview on 60 minutes last week: "...sure, I know. Yeah yeah. My Twitter has been blowing up lately in an obscene way -- but yeah, there are plenty of supporters, don't get me wrong. But I've been getting massive grief about the fact that some of these players may not regularly attend church services, but that's mostly conjecture, and it's from media outlet naysayers who 'want' to keep the NBA 'pure' and never evolve to something infinitely more fun and --let's face it -- pretty ridiculous in theory. But that's all face value nonsense; the bottom line is that...(Silver sips his water)...this was for years an intriguing and very unlikely possibility, and now, thanks to me, it's a reality. These NKCLBA players ARE the real deal. I've been to countless games in Greenup, Boyd, and Carter counties: I was not disappointed, and I am an easily disappointed man. Nothing I've seen yet has dissuaded my belief that these gentlemen are some of the elitest players in the country. (Silver draws at a long drink of water)
The people that inhabit these areas of Kentucky are good, honest, hard working sports fanatics, and they are now going to reap some overdue benefits. The VIG has been running a long time for these 'Lost Heroes' of basketball on the national landscape. Let's live and let live here, people. Playing church league basketball is much closer to attending church service than many of us will ever get. I find it inspiring; a lot of these boys and men are finding the light and love of our Lord because of a game. Hater's gon' hate. I mean, there's a few NBA players who skipped church AND college. The league's are merged, we are now one, and that's that. So let's move on, next question."
Alright! I like this new, unapologetic commisioner! Enough quotes and news on his behalf, though. We will revisit his more recent public forays on next week's edition of Local Basketball Report. Without Adam Silver, though, our NKCLBA league might forever have been a local tri-state enjoyment, but with his help...who knows? I think our league can blend seamlessly with the NBA, just as the commisioner does; I have been reporting this astonishing Kentucky talent for nearly 15 years, and an empty place has been filled in my heart by this fresh and startling unity between our leagues. This here could be a long, fruitful relationship. One thing is for sure though: no amount of money can be offered by the NBA to buy our pride or our churches or our way of life. The Wurtland Prophets, Lloyd Commandments, Cattletsburg Psalms, and Ashland Faiths among other teams will inject our spiritual insights and love for humanity and all creation into the league as a whole. I see nothing but good coming from any of this, for everyone involved.
Enough of my personal convictions, as I grow weary of hearing myself ramble on, opinion after listless opinion. Let's instead move along to our ordinary sections of the report: Scoop, Nit Grit, and Undertow. This monthly report focuses on none other than your very own point guard "Striver" Roark of the Wurtland 1st Methodist Prophets! Fasten your mighty, preventative measures, local ladies and gents. These reports may not be so local in a few months. Everyone on the planet will know who he is and my services won't be necessary! Fooey!
Here's the ' HISTORICAL SCOOP, YA LOOPS':
As a twelve year old youth, William "Striver" Roark's suffered from extreme physical exhaustion at times and couldn't put in the volume or effort necessary on the court. His A.A.U. coaches, trainers, and doctors were all baffled, as they tried everything -- from change of diet, medicines, and new workouts. It was Striver's single father, though -- a vagabond, teetotaler, and small time hustler at the time -- who had some priceless advice to his boy. One morning, hung over and distressed over his talented son's lack of endurance, Boone Roark's, "hand was forced by God," he testifies, so he drove Striver 150 miles away to the nearest Racino. Striver said his daddy Boone was silent nearly the whole way, except for the occasional look over to his son and the loving assurance that, "It'll be alright, you'll see."
They arrived at the Racetrack, and Striver tells me he was "...baffled, wondering why I wasn't in school," and thinking his father was up to another short con -- or that he owed a debt, more might simply still be drunk enough to do whatever it was he was doing. But on the contrary, Boone Roark did have a plan. He walked young Striver up to the fences lining the vast horse track and had him watch as the beautiful creatures ran and walked, trotted along, and rested.
"Watch 'em, Strive, look close at 'em. Watch 'em breath and they motions: before they start their run, when they make their push, and as they catchin their breath. Good...good. Let them tell you in their own way and at their own pace what it is you need to know."
After that day, Roark never once got fatigued on the basketball court, and won't go into fine details, it's a topic that induces a sort of unexplainable wondrous calm and comfort to him -- but I can tell you he attributes it wholly to his father and those horses that day..
Let's get down to the 'NITTY GRITTY':
William's been starting point guard for your Prophets for twelve years now -- as you all well know -- and he is a ripe 41 years old. He certainly paid his dues early on in his career, missing 5 seasons over an 8 year period due to relocation (pay raise/computer tech job in florida), an untimely divorce (but recently reconciled, happier than before), and a nitrous oxide/percoset downfall that stifled his abilities for no more than 12-38 months; accounts vary on that particular issue.
Striver was saved by the grace of God 7 years ago this June, and by his account, and all of us witnesses, the Lord has instilled in him a resolve that is unmatched by competitors and looked up to by his teammates, family, and fellow church goers. It's his guttiness and leadership that really tilts the odds in his team's favor. Fans and foes (begrudingly but respectfully) have dubbed him, "The Great Anticipator" and with good reason. He averages 4.2 steals per game, and 22.4 ppg, both NKCLBA bests this season. He is shooting 58.5% for the Prophets, another personal and league leader up to this point. I'd like to see how these numbers are affected when the leagues converge April 8th; somehow I think he will mantain great averages. He has a hustling, scrappy style of defense that produces turnovers aplenty; but many of his contributions on the court over the years don't make the statsheet. Rather than be selfishly upset for not producing more of the "honey numbers" as he laughingly calls them, he just plays ball, unassuming and strong, with a few interesting twists.
"Striver" Roark employs multiple threats of attack at will: Deflections, charges, over-the-top distractions and meta game trickery such as overdramatization (or complete underreaction, contrarily) during key moments of Wurtland 1st Methodist Prophets close games. In my interview with him after the Prophets big win on Striver's buzzer beater Tuesday against the , he divulged to me that his 22 years of experience in the league have paid big dividends lately.
At 42 years old, he's a seasoned veteran with "...a few hundred thousand road miles," in his own words. His knees sometimes, "hurt like the dickens," as he's told me on multiple occasions after grueling road games in neighboring counties.
I've heard him, in the throes of his sporadic back pangs after a close win or loss, while trying to text his wife about his youngest child's softball game outcome, say, in an exhausted but relieved tone, "...I do this for me. I need this. I don't feel selfish about that. The kids know that, and so does my beautiful Tildey. They would never ask me to quit something that means so much. I love my family, and I can be a tough one to deal with, but they love me and know certain things gotta be certain ways in my life. I couldn't ask for a more supportive network of friends, loved ones, and fellow brothers of Christ. These Prophets have helped save me, and if anybody has the drive for it, there is an opening for 'em on this team."
That's a little snippet of our fabled Striver. I've always admired and respected his game and his will, along with all of us here in Greenup County. If anyone can give Lebron James the toughest game of his life in only a few short weeks, Strive can. And will.
Over, and out, fans and friends alike. It's been a pleasure once again. Talk to you next month. Keep the e-mails and updates coming, your contributions are always appreciated! Hope and love, my local brethren.
Smith Holbrook, Prophets Reporting
April 4th, 2014